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Dame Lynne Brindley

Chief Executive of the British Library

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The introduction to the British Library’s Annual Report each year gives me time to reflect on what a privilege it is to lead this great institution. Our broad and diverse range of activities combined with the fulsome commitment of all my colleagues ensures the continuing success of the Library and its recognition across the world as one of the truly great libraries, as appreciated and relevant today as it was at its origins in 1753.

The Report documents many areas of valued service, success, recognition and importance to our users – researchers, business and entrepreneurs, education and the general public. But this year I want to highlight our international profile, our partnership activities and our progress in digital activities.

Our mission is ‘advancing the world’s knowledge’ and many of our activities on the global stage involve international partnerships. For some years we have supported the Iraq National Library and Archives, and this year saw funding to digitise some 50,000 records from our India Office collections relating to Iraq as a contribution to the virtual reconstruction of their historic collections. In conjunction with the Aga Khan Trust, an exhibition of digital copies of historic photographs of Afghanistan from the Library recently went on display in Kabul, attracting much public and local interest. 

The British Library and the National Library of China have worked co-operatively over a number of years, and I was honoured to be invited to speak at their centenary celebrations in autumn 2009 about the international work that the Library undertakes. As China invests heavily in digital library activities we are increasingly seeing new opportunities for partnership. We are also building a number of relationships with key library and archive institutions in India, working with UK Research Councils and a number of Foundations to enrich resources and access to them, and to support new research directions.

This year saw the culmination of a four-year collaboration between the British Library, the National Library of Russia in St Petersburg, the University of Leipzig, and St Catherine’s Monastery in completing the virtual re-unification of the Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest surviving Christian Bible. It was made accessible to a global internet audience to huge acclaim, evidenced by some 100 million hits in the first two days of its appearance.

A very different kind of partnership has brought prominence and success again this year: the Library’s Business & IP Centre, the value of which has been realised many times over during the economic down-turn. Since its launch in 2006 as a partnership with the London Development Agency, over 150,000 entrepreneurs and SMEs have used its services, some 3,000 workshops have been delivered and we have many, many testimonies to the contribution that we have made to business start-ups and to the economy. We are working with strategic and service delivery partners and over a hundred marketing associate networks to ensure a very wide reach.

No one can fail to notice that the development of digital activity in every area of our lives is driving ever faster innovation. Our users increasingly expect digital services and digital engagement with content of all kinds. We recently launched the UK Web Archive – a growing collection of thousands of websites, collected by permission of their owners. We have supported the Government this year in its work towards producing regulations which would enable us to collect and preserve for ever the UK’s digital heritage. We all hope for the completion of consultation and the enactment of regulation during 2010/11. 

As we end the year we move into a much tougher financial climate for public sector institutions. We have over many years been vigilant about efficiency savings, about continuous improvement in our processes, and ensuring value for money all round. We do not underestimate the challenges ahead to continue to deliver high quality services despite budget cuts, but we remain committed to innovation in the way we approach these challenges as we seek to ensure that the British Library remains world-class for the long-term.

Finally I want to thank our outgoing Chairman, Sir Colin Lucas, for all his support during his tenure, first as a member and then as Chair of the Board. He has cared deeply about the Library and has cherished both its great traditions and our innovations.

Dame Lynne Brindley
Chief Executive

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